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Evolving science of baby skin care

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Dr David Mays, Senior Director, Global Scientific Engagement, Johnson & Johnson Consumer shares some valuable insights on how the science of baby skincare has evolved over the years

Baby care has evolved immensely over the last few years thanks to the well informed millennial parents. They are adopting new age methods to care for their baby and are chosing research-based products. They want proof of the performance of the products they buy for their babies and doctors are their first source of information followed by Google or vice-versa for some. On my visit to India, I realised that the amount of information available to the consumers today is vast and can easily lead to misguidance and confusion in parents and doctors. There is a need for educating and raising awareness regarding safe and gentle care for babies amongst the healthcare professionals. A lot of old traditions and home remedies need to be re-evaluated to suffice in today’s every changing environment.

Below are some of those topics which were discussed with paediatricians.

One major dilemma I realised that the doctors, parents and the world at large is living in is that ‘Natural Is Always Safe’. Whether a substance is naturally derived or synthetic has no bearing on its healthfulness, safety, or toxicity. ‘Organic’ and ‘natural’ seem like words which will not stop to gain momentum, but the important point to note is that people often think that natural means safe and chemical-free. We see the market is saturated with various natural and herbal concoctions, but have anyone ever tested them for side-effects or if they are safe to use. However, we at Johnson’s stand by those not all natural ingredients are good and not all synthetic ingredients are bad and that each ingredient, natural and synthetic/chemical, needs to be evaluated for efficacy and safety. The debate over naturals and chemicals has been oversimplified where many consumers now believe that the more natural something is, the better and safer it is. It’s just not that simple and in fact that oversimplification is doing a great disservice to consumers. That natural substances are safer across the board simply because they grow naturally is a common misconception. For example: In India, people need to boil the water before they drink it as compared to the US, where we have water directly from the tap. Another example is milk, which needs to be pasteurised before its fit for consumption.

Facts you should know: 1) Fragrance in product aid lower cortisol levels and indeed help the baby sleep longer. 2) Preservatives prevent the growth of microorganisms. Fragranced skincare products can provide added benefits over unfragranced products when designed, screened, and tested per industry guidance. Some fragrances are linked to calmness and stress reduction, improve alertness and mood and more so help in increasing a bond with their child.

Johnson’s products are 100 per cent gentle. The fragrance ingredients in Johnson’s products continue to follow International Fragrance Association (IFRA) global standards. IFRA (International Fragrance Association) provides critical guidance to aid in minimising the potential of skin sensitisation and allergic reactions to products. When it comes to preservatives, products can be contaminated by microbes through unintended seepage of water, airborne microbes, fingers dipping into jars, palm pressing against tube mouths etc. Hence it is important for any products to have a certain amount of preservatives.

Another important aspect to note is that baby’s skin is different than adult skin. Baby’s skin loses and gains water more rapidly, has less natural moisturising factors, and is often dry even when it may not seem so. It loses water 2x faster and is more delicate and sensitive. baby skin is often clinically dry. Emollient should be chosen with care, not all are suitable for baby’s skin (natural olive and oil for cooking contains very high levels of oleic acid which can damage the skin barrier).

At Johnson’s less than 2 per cent of the cosmetic ingredients used globally meet Johnson’s standards for baby products, including purity, safety, gentleness and mildness. All others are rejected. Less than 25 per cent of the aroma compounds used in fragranced consumer products meet our strict purity standards and can be considered for our safe, gentle baby products. Johnson’s product meet or exceed global guidance, fragrance enhances baby-parent engagement and multi-sensory experiences.

Do your patients know? Only 65 per cent of oil and dirt on the skin care can be removed with water alone. And what remains can be irritating to the skin. A few doctors expressed their confusion when it comes to advising parents whether to give the baby a bath immediately after the birth. My answer to them was how else do you make sure that the vernix comes off, leaving no irritant on the skin. Indian babies are also born more hairy compared to others, hence the importance of giving them a bath with a mild cleanser to remove the unwanted material which interacts minimally with baby skin. Clinical studies indicate that a regimen of bathing with mild baby cleanser, followed by the use of a moisturiser developed specially for baby skin is beneficial in helping to protect and maintain a healthy skin barrier. It is also imperative to understand how touch, engagement and everyday routines can make a difference in healthy brain and child development.

Caregivers should basically look for products that have fewer ingredients and that are mild and gentle in nature. It is important the ingredients suit the baby’s delicate skin and protects it from dryness and keeps it soft. Also, products with no parabens and allergens and irritant fragrances can also be avoided. Baby’s comfort and well being should be of greatest priority of course. They should also be watchful if the baby is allergic to any products. The experience of using the product should be superior and the packaging should be easy to use. As the parent or the caregiver should not struggle while using the product and should be more comfortable and focused on the baby’s comfort.

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